In a Message for Australia Day (26 January 2012) the Commission for Justice, Ecology and Development of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference has called for more compassionate treatment of asylum seekers. Four of the Bishops who signed this statement minister directly to asylum seekers in immigration detention centres located in their dioceses. They say there must be a limit to how long asylum seekers can be held in immigration detention. Read the full Bishops’ Australia Day call for time limit on detention.
The Australian Catholic Bishops Conference’s social networking protocol encourages the use of new media for evangelisation. It stresses the importance of upholding human dignity in the virtual world. Read the protocol here.
The Australian Catholic Migrant and Refugee Office (ACMRO) has welcomed changes which will allow asylum seekers who have arrived in Australia by boat to live in the community rather than immigration detention centres while their claims are assessed. ACMRO is an office of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference. Read their media release.
The season of Lent calls us to take stock of our lives. How well are we witnessing to our values and beliefs? Do they permeate every dimension of our lives, or do we, perhaps without thinking too much about it, bracket them from some parts of our lives? During the season of Lent we ask ourselves how we can follow Jesus more closely, accepting his invitation to make the Kingdom of God present in the world. In his Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, Pope Francis reminds us that evangelisation is not complete if the Gospel is separated from any part of life (EG, n 181). The light of the Gospel touches every part of our lives – if we let it in. For example, we can make the Kingdom of God present in the world through what we do – and do not – buy. Fair trade Easter eggs can be an icon of the light of the Gospel shinning on the economic dimension of life. Is Chocolate a Faith Issue? Will you be buying fair trade Easter eggs? Perhaps you haven’t really thought much about chocolate production as a faith issue? However the way in which a lot of chocolate is produced involves the exploitation and even enslavement and trafficking of workers, including children. Unfair terms of trade also keep communities in poverty and dependence. These are issues that Pope Francis is very concerned about. So, if you want to stand with him against these injustices, one thing that you can do is to buy only fair trade chocolate. Never heard of fair trade chocolate? There’s lots of information about fair trade chocolate at Stop the Traffick. Each year Australian Religious Against Trafficking in Humans runs an Easter campaign designed to raise awareness of the links between chocolate production and trafficking in persons and how we can use our power as consumers to promote change. We can witness to our faith by shopping for fair trade Easter eggs. How will you recognize fair trade chocolate? There is a system of accreditation and labeling run by Fairtrade Australia and New Zealand as part of the international fair trade network. It works in a similar way to the accreditation and labeling of organic products. There are also producers and retail networks that specialise in fair trade products. The Trading Circle, created by the Good Shepherd Sisters is a good example. They support income-generating projects that provide women with alternatives to prostitution and that reduce the vulnerability of communities to trafficking. You can support their work by buying their products online or in-store. School Activities Check out the schools section of the Traffik Free Chocolate website for activities and resources. Go to this page for a good chocolate gamification update on the traditional Easter Egg Hunt. Another Way of Behaving in the Economy Fair trade networks witness to the Gospel by demonstrating that there is another way of behaving in the economy. Exploitation is not inevitable – it is a choice on the part of producers and consumers. Witnessing to alternative ways of living in the world is a particular gift to the church of the religious institutes and they have been at the forefront of Catholic action on fair trade. Pope Benedict XVI, in his encyclical Caritas in Veritate, calls for love and the logic of gift to be part of the way in which the global economy operates. This should not be a redistributive afterthought, but an integral part of systems of production and consumption. What fair trade networks have demonstrated is possible must now become an ordinary part of all production and consumption. Clearly, a Christian commitment to fair trade products must go beyond chocolate, and beyond the Easter season. Likewise our participation in making the Kingdom of God present in the world goes beyond our patterns of consumption. But right now, fair trade Easter eggs can be an icon of the new life of the Resurrection present even in acts of production and consumption.
World Day of Peace 2018 Message from Pope Francis Pope Francis’ Message for the World Day of Peace 2018 focuses on migrants’ and refugees’ search for peace. Hunger or persecution drive some while the possibility of a life in which they can pursue their full human development draws others. All are seeking peace. By contrast, Francis says that those who foment fear of migrants and refugees “are sowing violence, racial discrimination and xenophobia.” (n 3) His words certainly ring true here in Australia. Approaching the situation with a contemplative gaze, he sees not a threat, but rather an opportunity to build peace. People on the move remind us that we are one human family sharing a common home. Looking at our world in this manner, we see that migrants and refugees do not arrive “empty handed” (n 3). Rather they bring “their courage, skills, energy and aspirations” and the “treasures of their cultures” thus enriching “the lives of the nations that receive them” (n 3). Again, this is the Australian experience. Welcoming, Protecting & Including Migrants & Refugees Francis advocates a four-fold strategy of welcoming, protecting, promoting and integrating migrants and refugees. We know that these are practical and positive strategies. After all, we have done each of them in different measures at different times in Australia. Our experience suggests one word of caution. In our public policy discourse, the word “integration” carries some strong negative connotations, especially for our First Peoples. For Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities the policy known as “integration” was little better than “assimilation lite.” They were the ones who were expected to integrate into and become part of another culture. Perhaps a better word for what Pope Francis is talking about would be “inclusion.” Being included is being recognised as part of the community, sharing rather than giving up, the treasures of one’s culture of origin. In this way we all become part of something new. Perhaps even a new heaven and a new earth (Rev 21:1), already here and not yet complete? Global Compacts In 2018 two Global Compacts will be negotiated. One will be about migration and the other will concern refugees. They are important because they will provide the framework for policies and programs. Pope Francis and the Migrants and Refugees Section of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development call all Catholics to get involved in this process. They want the Compacts to be “inspired by compassion, foresight and courage” and to advance peace-building (n 5). Hence they offer Twenty Pastoral Action Points which provide a focus for action. Many of the points directly engage current Australian policies and practices. Time for Action in 2018 Communities of faith, social service agencies and social justice groups in Australia are actively working for change. For some it is a longstanding commitment. They are providing practical assistance to migrants, asylum seekers and refugees and advocating for changes in policy. Furthermore they are seeking to change the way the community understands the story of people seeking peace and security. While we may already be active, Pope Francis challenges each one of us to consider how we might be involved in 2018. Read the full text Migrants and refugees: Men and Women in Search of Peace